blue flamingos

Roses Are Red

Fandom: dueSouth

Category/Rated: Slash, PG

Year/Length: 2006/ ~3527 words

Pairing: Fraser/Kowalsky

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Author's Notes: My first attempt at Due South.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

hr

It's not the weirdest undercover assignment Ray's ever been given – witness pretending to be a balding Italian, or the three days he spent as a children' clown – but it's gotta come pretty close.

He doesn't even recognise himself in the mirror, which is kind of the point, but the smoothed down black hair, the fake moustache and goatee make him look like the devil. Somehow, he doesn't see it convincing the florist's assistant to open up to him about her side-line in drug dealing, but what the hell, Fraser's been sent to some conference by the Ice Queen and somehow police work's just not the same when it doesn't involve leaping off or through something on a daily basis.

So he puts on his apron and stands at the cash desk with the florist's assistant Sasha, who looks barely old enough to be *in* college, never mind out of it, which she is, with a degree in horticulture, and has hair dyed in streaks falling over her face. She actually knows something about flowers, which is more than can be said for Ray, so his first day consists of her putting together elaborate arrangements and rolling her eyes when he hands her the wrong greenery, then thorns in his fingers while he wraps the flowers and rings them up for an insanely large amount of money, considering they'll be dead in a couple of days anyway. The rest of the time, she tries to force herbal tea on him, he tries to persuade her round to coffee, and they make small talk while Ray tries to figure out how to swing the conversation casually round to the illegal drugs the owner's convinced Sasha is sending out to her customers in with the flowers.

The first day's a total washout, and Ray goes home with eyes so itchy he'd like to scratch them out because, oh yeah, pollen and hay fever, not a great mix. A week, Welsh said, two max. Ray stops at the drug store on his way in the next day.

He's just stepping out the door when he sees Frannie coming round the corner and jumps back inside, before she sees him and asks why he's skulking in drug store doorways when he's meant to be on a beach in Mexico. Like he's go back there after the last time; he wants a bit more out of his vacations than just a poncho.

The guy stacking shelves gives him a look that says he's one step from calling the police, the loonie bin or both, and Ray remembers he's got devil hair, which, Frannie probably wouldn't have recognised him anyway.

"Just, er, remembered I'm outta, uh, toothpaste," Ray offers, grabbing the closest one to hand. He's already paid for it when he realizes he just bought kids' strawberry flavoured gel. He'll give it to Turnbull, he'll be too polite to refuse. Probably use it as well.

He glances up and down the street before leaving the store doorway, feeling stupid. The whole setup's pretty stupid though, hoping no-one will recognise him cos the only one who knows where he is is Welsh, police stations being what they are for rumours spreading and Sasha being the daughter of one of the patrol guys. He was Welsh, he'd'a got someone in from another precinct, someone half of the residents of the 2-7 district *doesn't* know, but the shop owner's some childhood friend of Welsh's, and Ray's kind of flattered anyway that Welsh picked him, dumb as it sounds. Besides, he's got nothing better to do with Fraser out of town. Who plans a conference the week of Valentine's Day anyway?

Sasha's apparently decided that, since he's going to be working with her and she says his hand writing's not neat enough to write the cards, she'll give him a few lessons in floristry instead. It's definitely kind of girly, but then so is dancing, according to most people, and, like dancing, it's a lot harder than it looks. Sasha actually grins at him when he puts together a bunch of red roses with baby's breath for a guy who comes in at the end of the day, which is cool, but he's still no closer to any kind of talk about little packets of white powder.

The third day. Sasha leaves him alone for a few minutes while she runs down the street for another box of rosehip tea, even after Ray offers her some of his coffee. He takes the opportunity to go through her little cupboard in the back office – well, if she's going to leave it open – and he's just closing it when the bell over the door rings. He's expecting it to be Sasha, but when he goes out front, it's not.

"Oh. Hey," Huey says. He looks straight at Ray for a second, without even a flash of recognition, then turns back to the display of chrysanthemums he was looking at. "I need some flowers, something to take on a date."

"Yeah?" Ray asks. Without him meaning to, his voice comes out sounding like someone blended his and Fraser's together, which is kind of weird. "For Friday?"

"No." Huey glances over at him again, looking horrified. "It's not that kind of date. She'd my mum's friend's daughter, but I need to make a good impression."

"Sure, OK." Ray runs over Sasha's lessons from yesterday. Roses are good, though maybe not for first dates, daisies, carnations, tulips, basically anything familiar, unless the customer has his own ideas. Chrysanthemums are mother-in-law flowers. When it comes to floristry, the customer is definitely not always right. "How about some nice roses?" Ray asks, grabbing a decent sized bunch of pink roses, just to see the look on Huey's face.

"No," Huey says firmly. "Too, you know."

Ray doesn't, but he pushes on anyway. "We've got a nice selection of carnations," he offers instead. Huey hmms over them for a while, suggests chrysanthemums again, which Ray pretends not to hear, and finally leaves with a nice, if Ray does say so himself, arrangement of white and pink carnations against fern leaves.

They get busier as the day goes on, and by Thursday they're pretty much constantly occupied. Ray's heard so many variations on 'roses are read, violets are blue' that he's like to scratch the words from the English language, most of them from the surprisingly large number of cops who come in to buy roses for their wives and girlfriends, half of which Ray would have tagged as terminally single, like he's one to talk.

The only good thing about it being so busy is that Sasha forgets he's there most of the time. Ray sees her slip a little packet of white powder into a couple of arrangements as she hands them over, but he can't figure out where she's getting them from. Maybe in the pocket of her apron, which she takes home with her every evening.

When the bell over the door rings and Ray looks up to see Frannie slip inside, he's so used to familiar faces that he doesn't give it a second thought before going over and asking if he can help her.

"Yeah." She fingers the waxy petal of a large orange daisy, not looking at him. "You do deliveries, right?"

"Yeah. Ten dollars in central Chicago, twenty further out." There's a guy with a van who picks up all the bouquets at lunch-time and takes them round. The owner thought he might be in on whatever Sasha's doing, but she always leaves Ray to deal with him, saying only that things ended badly. Ray knows all about that, and glares at the guy on principle.

"Great." Frannie fingers the flower again, looking unsure. Ray's tempted to tell her that Fraser won't like the daisies, at least not the orange ones. They'll clash with his tunic, for one thing. "All right. Can you send a dozen of these to this address?" She shoves a scrap of paper at him.

"Sure." Ray opens it up, expecting to see the address of the Consulate. Instead, there's an apartment number that he doesn't recognise. Huh. Not Fraser after all. "You wanna write a card to go with them?"

"Yeah." Frannie looks at him, finally, and frowns. "You don't usually work here."

"Nah, just helping out with the Valentine's rush," Ray explains. He hands her a little white card and a pen. "You write your message, I'll ring this up."

"You look familiar though." Frannie taps the pen against the counter a couple of time. "Have we met?"

"Definitely not. I'm sure I'd remember you." Although Ray means it sincerely, for his character, it still comes out sounding like a line. Frannie glares at him – that, at least, is familiar – and shields her card with her other hand while she writes.

When she's gone, Ray sneaks a look at the name on the delivery docket, Elaine Besbriss. Learn something new every day, he thinks, and goes to help Sasha wrap the largest bunch of roses he's ever seen.

On Friday, Valentine's Day, it rains. Sasha turns up half an hour late with the keys, complaining about the bus service, by which point Ray's dripping, even standing under the canopy, and unimpressed with the start to this Valentine's Day. Bad enough that he didn't sleep well, that he was up half the night debating whether he should call Stella or not. He did last year, which she kind of seemed to like, for a little while, until he said something wrong, he doesn't remember what, at which point she hung up on him. In which case, not a great idea for this year, but it's a kind of tradition now, and he just wants to wish her happy valentine's, for old time's sake. Trouble is that she's more likely to see it as him returning to his stalking ways, which wouldn't be great, specially after she made a point of telling him, in the middle of complaining about him not signing his paperwork, that she had a date.

"Here." Sasha finally gets the door open and steps inside, shaking out her umbrella, not a hair out of place or even damp. "Go in back and dry off a bit. Have some ginger tea."

Ray shudders at the thought, but dry sounds pretty good. He locks himself in the bathroom with a cup of coffee, and towels his hair until it's mostly dry. There's not a lot he can do about his clothes, but he leans against the heater for a while until they start steaming, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Steam rising all round him, devil hair slicked down with water, apart from a bit over his left ear which is sticking up... thank God no-one he knows is gonna recognise him.

When he steps out of the bathroom, he very nearly ducks right back in again. That voice, chatting to Sasha about the virtues of a pinch of salt in the water to keep flowers fresh, he's know anywhere, even if it is still meant to be at a conference.

"Sure Benton," Sasha says as Ray pours himself another cup of coffee and tries to deicide whether to stay where he is or risk it. "But, honestly, I'm not convinced these home remedies have anything to recommend them. I did my dissertation on something similar, and there's no scientific evidence."

"I'm sure you're right," Fraser says. Ray risks a peek round the door frame and there he is, leaning on the counter – Fraser, leaning! – watching Sasha finish wrapping a bunch of bright yellow tulips. "But science isn't everything of course. Thank you kindly."

And just who, Ray wonders, is Fraser buying flowers for, on Valentine's Day. A horrible thought strikes him – maybe that's why Fraser's home early from the conference, he's got a date with the Ice Queen and she let him come back early.

"Hey Ben, you done yet?" Sasha calls. She sticks her head through the doorway. "That's weird, Benton and Ben."

Ray follows her into the shop, trying not to blush. It was the first thing that came to him when he needed a name. "Friend of yours?"

"Not exactly." Sasha shrugs. "He comes in here sometimes, works just round the corner, some kind of liaison with the police. He's Canadian. Listen, I gotta run out, can you hold the place down for me for a few?"

"No problem." Ray gestures round the empty shop. "Leave your apron here, why don't you, no sense us both looking like drowned rats."

Sasha eyes him suspiciously for a minute, then shrugs and pulls her apron over her head, dropping it on the counter. "I'll be five minutes," she promises, grabs the store's umbrella and plunges into the rain.

There are, just like Ray thought, half a dozen packets of white powder in the front pocket, sealed with tape. He peels the corner of one open, tipping a little powder onto a cut off piece of wrapping paper. Could be cocaine...

The bell over the door goes and he drops the packet hurriedly, but it's too late. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" Sasha demands, storming across and swiping the packets into her pocket. "You're going through my stuff?"

"You're back quickly," Ray offers.

"I forgot my purse, like it's any of your business. What are you *doing*?" Sasha's eyes blaze with anger.

"What's in the packets?" Ray asks. "Looks like cocaine to me."

"Oh for God's sake!" Sasha throws her hands up. "Do I look like a complete idiot to you – don't answer that! My dad's a fucking cop at the 27th, you think I'm dumb enough to deal drugs right around the corner from where he works?"

"Maybe," Ray says. This isn't going the way he expected it to, and he's getting a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. "So what is it then?"

"It's none of your fucking business." Sasha pulls her apron back on, her errand apparently forgotten. "Even if it was drugs. I can't believe you."

Ray considers for a split second, then pulls his badge from the pocket of his jeans. "Yeah, it is. Especially if it's drugs."

Sasha stares at the badge with wide eyes. "You're a cop? Wait a minute – you're undercover? On me?" She whirls round once, agitated. "That fucking witch, she put you up to this? The owner, right, the one who – she thinks I'm dealing drugs out of her store? God, is the whole world insane or something?"

Ray's kind of tempted to say yes, if this is any indication. "What's the powder, if it's not drugs? She's seen you slipping it into the flowers, so've I."

"This is mad." Sasha shakes her head. "It's flower food, all right? I'm working on something to keep cut flowers alive for longer, I was trialling it here, but I didn't want that witch to know cos she'd try and take a cut of it. I'm not gonna be a florist forever."

"Oh," Ray says.

"Here." Sasha tears open one of the packets and shoves it at him. "Taste it, if you don't believe me."

It tastes bitter and chemical and faintly of something that reminds him of soil. Fraser could probably list the ingredients for him, but even Ray knows this doesn't taste like any street drug around. "I'll have to take some back to the station for testing." He closes up the packet again and starts to take his apron off, but Sasha catches his arm.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Back to the station to tell my lieutenant I just spent four days watching a horticultural entrepreneur," Ray tells her, but she shakes her head.

"No way in hell. It's Valentine's Day, you're not leaving me here all on my own." Her eyes light up gleefully. "You owe me."

hr

Sasha angry is not a woman to be trifled with, so Ray eventually capitulates, other than making a quick call to Welsh to explain what's happened. He does take off the moustache and goatee, to Sasha's amusement. Once she gets over the fumingly angry stage, which lasts until lunch-time, she's actually not bad to be around, now he's not looking for evidence of drug dealing.

Even so, he was glad to escape the florist's, and sneak off to dye his hair back to a more normal colour, ignoring his cell phone ringing. It'll just be Welsh, calling to demand he goes in and does his paperwork.

Instead, he's standing on the sidewalk outside the Canadian Consulate, arguing with himself as he paces. Fraser's office light is still on, which means he hasn't gone out, at least not yet. He's back from the conference almost a day early though, and he still hasn't called Ray to tell him, and he bought flowers. Has apparently bought flowers before, but there's just no way he's seeing someone he hasn't told Ray about. They spend most of their time together, Ray's actually surprised he hadn't caught Fraser buying flowers before.

He should go home. Fraser's entitled to a life, after all, except what's he doing keeping his secret romantic life from Ray? Ray's told him all his secrets, all his embarrassing experiences with women – Fraser not doing the same just ain't right. They're partners and partners share.

Ray turns on his heel and marches up the steps to the Consulate to knock. It takes some increasingly violent pounding, but finally Fraser opens the door, blinking at him in surprise. He's out of uniform, Ray notices, but not dressed up. Maybe not a date after all.

"Good evening, Ray," Fraser says. "I wasn't expecting you."

"I wasn't expecting you either Fraser," Ray retorts. Face to face with Fraser, the mild irritation he carried around all day quickly boils up into anger. "Thought I was picking you up from the airport tomorrow."

"Ah, well." Fraser actually looks almost uncomfortable. "Well, Inspector Thatcher decided that I need not attend the final sessions, and I didn't want to trouble you at work, so I took a taxi from the airport."

Which probably meant he walked. "So were you gonna tell me you were back, or wait for me to get all the way out to the airport?"

"Of course, I was going to phone you tomorrow," Fraser says. "Though now of course I needn't bother. Actually –" Fraser frowns at him slightly. "How did you know that I was here Ray?"

"You do any shopping after you got back?" Ray asks, thinking, go on, I dare you.

"Well, I needed some milk, and Diefenbaker did insist on stopping for a doughnut on the way back from the market." Fraser looks even more confused.

"That's it?" Ray asks. "No other stops? Nothing for, say, Valentine's Day?"

That's – Ray wouldn't believe it if he wasn't seeing it with his own eyes, but Benton Fraser is blushing. "I don't know what you mean, Ray."

"Yeah you do! I saw you, Fraser, at the florists. The one you call into all the time, according to Sasha."

"Well, I wouldn't say I frequent it, as she seems to be implying, but yes, I have called in on occasion."

"Occasion like today," Ray presses. "She says you buy tulips, every time you go in. No-one buys flowers just for the hell of it Fraser, who are you giving them to?" And why haven't you told me, he wants to add, but that just makes him sound jealous, and he's not jealous, he's angry at being left out. Not jealous at all. It's not like he wants to buy Fraser flowers, even if he did think about how much Fraser might like one of the dragon flowers Sasha was raving over.

"Now, tulips are a nice bright flower, it's very pleasant to have some colour in one's living space sometimes."

"Bullshit, Fraser. I've seen your living space, you don't even have a vase."

"The Consulate actually has a great number of entirely suitable -" Fraser starts but Ray cuts him off with a wave of his hand.

"You. Do not. Buy flowers. For you office! You come from the great white north, no colour for miles around. What's the big secret Fraser?"

He takes a step forward, getting right in Fraser's space and Fraser actually steps back. He's never done that before, not even on their first day together.

Ray looks up at Fraser, who's doing the blank Mountie face. That can't be right, it just can't, they've been working together for over a year, surely he'd know – except that Fraser obviously doesn't know. "Fraser?"

"Yes Ray?"

"The flowers, the tulips... Who'd you buy them for?"

Fraser looks back at him very solemnly. Ray holds his breath. If he's wrong, he'll just... he'll go back to the florists, ask them to take him on full-time. It'll be the only option.

"For you, Ray," Fraser says, and Ray nearly chokes when he lets out the breath at the same moment as Fraser leans in and kisses him.

Fortunately, things get better after that. A lot better.


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